NPR boss rebukes editor's bombshell essay: Questioning our integrity is 'profoundly disrespectful'

NPR honcho Katherine Maher took aim at the bombshell essay written by veteran editor Uri Berliner that caused chaos at the liberal news organization.

NPR boss rebukes editor's bombshell essay: Questioning our integrity is 'profoundly disrespectful'

NPR president and CEO Katherine Maher fired back at veteran editor Uri Berliner's bombshell essay, suggesting he was "profoundly disrespectful, hurtful, and demeaning" for questioning NPR's integrity.

"I joined this organization because public media is essential for an informed public. At its best, our work can help shape and illuminate the very sense of what it means to have a shared public identity as fellow Americans in this sprawling and enduringly complex nation," Maher told staff in a memo Friday. "NPR's service to this aspirational mission was called in question this week, in two distinct ways. The first was a critique of the quality of our editorial process and the integrity of our journalists. The second was a criticism of our people on the basis of who we are."

Maher continued: "Asking a question about whether we're living up to our mission should always be fair game: after all, journalism is nothing if not hard questions. Questioning whether our people are serving our mission with integrity, based on little more than the recognition of their identity, is profoundly disrespectful, hurtful, and demeaning."


She added: "It is deeply simplistic to assert that the diversity of America can be reduced to any particular set of beliefs, and faulty reasoning to infer that identity is determinative of one's thoughts or political leanings. Each of our colleagues are here because they are excellent, accomplished professionals with an intense commitment to our work: we are stronger because of the work we do together, and we owe each other our utmost respect. We fulfill our mission best when we look and sound like the country we serve."

The NPR honcho, who joined the liberal outlet just last month, insisted her employees "represent America" and that "we succeed through our diversity," calling it a "bedrock institutional commitment, hard-won, and hard-protected."

"We recognize that this work is a public trust, one established by Congress more than 50 years ago with the creation of the public broadcasting system. In order to hold that trust, we owe it our continued, rigorous accountability. When we are asked questions about who we serve and how that influences our editorial choices, we should be prepared to respond. It takes great strength to be comfortable with turning the eye of journalistic accountability inwards, but we are a news organization built on a foundation of robust editorial standards and practices, well-constructed to withstand the hardest of gazes," Maher wrote in her message.


Maher acknowledged that NPR's audience has "unquestionably changed" in recent years, but touted how "we have earned new trust from younger, more diverse audiences, particularly in our digital experiences. These audiences constitute new generations of listeners, are more representative of America, and our changing patterns of listening, viewing, and reading." 

This, however, conflicts with the data Berliner shared in his Free Press essay, which stated how NPR's audience in 2023 is only 6% Black and 7% Hispanic, and politically is a whopping 67% liberal and only 11% conservative. 

Maher boasted about the NPR staff, saying "their presence across America is foundational to our mission: serving and engaging audiences that are as diverse as our nation: urban and rural, liberal and conservative, rich and poor, often together in one community." 

That, too, appears to contradict Berliner's own findings, which showed 87 of NPR's editorial staff in its D.C. headquarters are registered Democrats while zero were Republicans.


Maher informed employees she will implement "quarterly NPR Network-wide editorial planning and review meetings" to address "how our journalism serves the needs of audiences in their communities" in addition to other initiatives. 

"Continuing to uphold our excellence with confidence, having inclusive conversations that bridge perspectives, and learning more about the audiences we serve in order to continue to grow and thrive, adding more light to the illumination of who we are as a shared body public: I look forward to how we will do this work together," Maher concluded. 

As Maher began in her memo, "This has been a long week" for NPR. Berliner's stunning critique of his employer laid out jarring allegations against the outlet, particularly the anti-Trump stance he said it embraced after 2016.

"As in many newsrooms, [former President Trump's] election in 2016 was greeted at NPR with a mixture of disbelief, anger, and despair… But what began as tough, straightforward coverage of a belligerent, truth-impaired president veered toward efforts to damage or topple Trump’s presidency," Berliner wrote

The longtime editor knocked NPR for allowing Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to be an "ever-present muse" during Russiagate and said he "listened as one of NPR’s best and most fair-minded journalists said it was good we weren’t following the [Hunter Biden] laptop story because it could help Trump." 

The 25-year veteran also took aim at how NPR made diversity its "North Star" — even implementing a diversity "tracking system" to log the race and ethnicity of their interview subjects and sources as he highlighted the lack of ideological diversity in the newsroom.